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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Timmie come home

Quick Lassie -- go find Timmie!

We've heard a lot from state Treasure Tim Cahill recently -- about school construction costs, Mass. Pike bonds and the life sciences bill.

But when it comes to the cost of "special" pensions at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the Globe notes the voluble treasurer:
...whose office has broad oversight over the state retirement system, declined to comment, even though in 2004 he talked tough about overhauling the law in an interview with CommonWealth magazine.
What's up with that?

The Globe story today is not a Herald pension watch -- going after public officials collecting pensions from a state job while working at a federal job or something similar.

Nope, this is a story that looks at using loopholes to loot the public purse. And in this case, we're talking about former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority employees whose bad decisions and lackadaisical oversight helped jack up Big Dig costs that require the bonding gyrations that Cahill is vocally opposing.

The Globe notes the system was created to protect longtime public employees from politically motivated purges. But in recent decades, it has been the subject of considerable gaming:
...the law has allowed some employees whose jobs are phased out, typically because of money-saving efforts by government, to start collecting pensions immediately. That has enabled some to move on to second careers in their 40s or 50s, with lifetime pensions that are extremely rare in the private sector. The typical profile is midlevel manager, not a rank-and-file worker.
Here's what Cahill had to say (registration required) four years ago:
"It bothers me because termination means termination," says Cahill. "Quitting or leaving is not being terminated." A broader question asked by Cahill is whether termination benefits should be available at all to those who have opted to pursue high-profile positions in state government, whether elected or appointed, that make no pretense of promising job security.

"The law was originally passed to protect the lower-level person from being hurt by the political changes that happen up here on Beacon Hill," says Cahill. "I think it's been twisted to help the higher-up people, to benefit those who choose to move up knowing they might only be there a few years."

The Globe story notes that the beneficiaries of the Commonwealth taxpayers largess are now all gainfully employed elsewhere, particularly Michael Lewis, pulling down $130,000 as Rhode Island transportation secretary -- on top of his $72,578 Massachusetts pension for service as a Big Dig manager. And let's say that title is a major oxymoron.

Just imagine applying that $72,578 annually to paying off the Mass. Pike bonds that Cahill is so concerned about.

Why the silence today Mr. Treasurer? Whatever happened to "working group" you established in 2004 to look into this? Are they still working? Or are they collecting pensions?

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Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

Yup. Secret plan.

July 25, 2008 8:47 AM  

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